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Welcome to the HPRC Blog. We've got lots of information here, from quick tips to in-depth posts about detailed human performance optimization topics.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness

Helmets save lives

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and National Bike Month. This Memorial Day, bicycle and motorcycle enthusiasts will take to the roads. Wearing a helmet is essential!

Bicycle and motorcycle helmets save lives and help prevent serious brain and face injuries. Service members wear helmets on the battlefield to prevent death and serious head injury. Wearing helmets can reduce motorcycle-related deaths effectively. While bike helmets might not prevent concussions (a mild form of traumatic brain injury), they can go a long way toward preventing severe brain injuries.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2014 alone, more than 4,500 motorcyclists were killed in motor-vehicle accidents and an estimated 88,000 motorcyclists were injured. Motorcycle-related deaths were a significant cause of non-combat deaths among veterans in 2013.

Motorcycle safety classes provide safe riding strategies. For example, the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence offers safety courses for active duty, reserve, and guard members. And the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center sponsors a motorcycle mentorship program that pairs new riders with experienced ones.

Ready to bike to work or school—or just for fun? Check out the League of American Bicyclists website for helpful cycling tips, videos, and more. Ride smart!  

What’s the deal with DHEA?

Filed under: OPSS, Supplements
DHEA is a hormone and marketed to have anabolic effects. Does this make it illegal?

DHEA, short for dehydroepiandrosterone (also known as Prasterone), and chemical variations of this dietary supplement ingredient are commonly found in products marketed for sexual enhancement and bodybuilding such as testosterone boosters and prohormones. They’re also marketed to produce effects similar to anabolic steroids. Unlike anabolic steroids, DHEA is not illegal, but it is prohibited by professional sports organizations such as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Members of the Coast Guard should especially look out for supplements containing this ingredient, as they are not permitted to take any substances NCAA classifies as anabolic agents. To learn more, visit the OPSS FAQ about DHEA.

Giving a speech? "Fuel" properly.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Planning to give a speech or presentation? Learn some valuable nutrition tips to help.

“Fueling” your body with good nutrition can help calm your nerves—and your stomach—before giving your next speech or presentation. Try these tips to help prepare for the challenge.

  • Be mindful of what you drink. Avoid carbonated drinks that could cause bloating or gas. Don’t drink alcohol thinking it could calm your nerves—as it could backfire badly. And the jury’s still out on whether drinking dairy causes phlegm and should be avoided before a speaking engagement. Tip: Drink cool or room-temperature water. Or a warm beverage such as tea with honey to help soothe your throat.
  • Be mindful of what you eat. Eating fatty and/or sugary foods won’t provide staying power to help you feel your best. Avoid spicy foods that could cause stomach upset, especially if you’re already experiencing nervousness. And eating a heavy meal can make you sleepy. Tip: Eat something light such as lean protein and/or healthy carbohydrates to boost your energy.

Don’t skip drinking and eating due to nerves. You could be experiencing some of the same adrenaline hormones as when you participate in athletic events.

HPRC’s Going the Distance section offers helpful nutrition tips to prepare for endurance events. Use some of these strategies to stay fueled during “speech time” too.

Your military child’s mental health

This Mental Health Month, think about your kids’ emotional wellness and how you can best nurture their mental health.

Military kids are resilient in the face of unique challenges, but also might need extra emotional support along the way. They can experience struggles other children don’t face, such as their parents’ deployment. We don’t know the entire impact a parent’s deployment has on children, but some younger children seem to struggle more post-deployment. And kids mental health problems tend to increase when a parent returns injured.

Some parents or caregivers might see signs of anxiety in 3–5-year-olds with a parent on long-term deployment. These symptoms could include kids expressing lots of worries and repeatedly asking for reassurance. Some might also complain of physical symptoms, such as a headache or stomachache. Yet it’s also possible that some don’t experience any physical or emotional distress during their parent’s deployment. Overall, military kids tend to be resilient when a parent is deployed.

Still, military kids, like all kids, sometimes experience mental health concerns, including thoughts of suicide, anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and cognitive and mood disorders. The percentage of military kids diagnosed with one or more concerns has increased over the past several years. This mirrors what’s happening in civilian families, possibly because pediatricians are getting better at diagnosing and/or referring children for mental health care. 

If you suspect your child needs help, supports and resources are available. Consider using Military OneSource’s confidential video non-medical counseling services for active duty families, including kids and teens. Your children also can connect with other military kids at Military Kids Connect. This site offers help for kids coping with a parent’s deployment too.

In the meantime, visit HPRC’s Family Resilience section for tips on managing family stress and improving family relationships, which are important for kids’ strong mental health.

May is Healthy Vision Month

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Eye care, Vision
Learn how to protect and maintain your eyesight. And find out where you can get the best eye-health information and resources.

Good eye health is critical to your performance. The National Eye Institute (NEI) recommends maintaining a healthy lifestyle to keep your eyes strong and prevent vision damage. There are ways to help protect your eyesight.

Whether you’re suffering from any eye injuries or conditions, or just have questions, check out the Vision Center of Excellence website for helpful resources. You can find eye-care providers there too.

And download the NEI’s Healthy Vision Month Fact Sheet to learn the 5 steps you can take to protect your vision.

Stimulants – Are you up to speed?

Check out the new OPSS infographic about stimulants!

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has a new infographic about stimulants. Do you want to know what types of dietary supplements commonly contain stimulants? Or how to tell if your supplement contains a stimulant? Or what can happen if you take too much or too many stimulants? Get up to speed and check out the infographic below with information on what you need to know about these dietary supplement ingredients. Use it in conjunction with the OPSS stimulants list to help you with these ingredients often found in dietary supplements.

Full Image of the Stimulants PDF

Confident moms are happier

Can moms really do it all? Learn how feeling confident at work and home leads to greater happiness.

A mom with the right mindset feels that she can “get things done” and be a good parent, which impacts more than her to-do list. It can affect her satisfaction with family relationships and work-life balance too. The good news is that about half of younger moms (between the ages of 18 and 34) feel they’re very good at parenting. This is true if you’re married, living with a partner, or single-parenting—whether working inside or outside the home. Yet this means nearly half of younger moms feel less confident about their parenting skills.

Why does a mother’s confidence matter? Self-assured moms feel less overwhelmed when managing multiple responsibilities. And they can feel less stressed. Confident moms feel happier and pleased with their family relationships overall. Many experience greater satisfaction with their partners too.

Moms who work outside the home often juggle household tasks along with their job responsibilities. What helps them feel confident in their ability to accomplish everything? Those who are comfortable with their childcare decisions feel more effective at work. Good relationships with a supportive partner and encouraging supervisor also help keep your work-life balance in check. And when you feel confident at work, you feel capable of managing work and family needs—successfully and simultaneously.

Confidence is a mindset that needs nurturing. If you waver in your confidence as a mother, you might’ve fallen into a thinking trap—and you’ll need to work your way out. Take the Parenting Confidence Assessment to see where you stand. Parenting alone during your partner’s deployment? Check out Military OneSource for helpful tips and resources.

What surface is best for running?

Runners often hear the suggestion to “run on softer surfaces to save your knees.” When it comes to running and injury prevention, does surface matter?

The truth is that the jury’s still out on whether running on a softer surface has less impact on joints and muscles. Some research suggests it might not actually matter, and the forces that impact your lower body on various surfaces such as asphalt, concrete, and grass don’t increase knee pain or injury risk. One explanation is that your body automatically adapts to the surface you’re running on. That means you’ll instinctively strike harder on softer surfaces, and strike softer on harder surfaces. On the other hand, some evidence suggests that running on softer surfaces (such as grass) reduces stress on your muscles and joints.

“But it feels better when I run on soft surfaces,” you might say. That difference in feeling is likely due to the different kinds of muscles, or stabilizers, you use when running on softer surfaces, which creates a sensation of less impact, although the overall impact on your body is the same.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t run on soft surfaces if it makes you feel better. Feeling better on a run goes a long way. However, softer surfaces such as trails, grass, or sand tend to be more uneven, which can pose a greater risk of strains and sprains.

When it comes to injury prevention and recovery, it’s also important to consider other factors such as wearing the right running shoes. And be sure to increase your running intensity and volume gradually to help avoid injury too. 

Mind-body help for breast cancer

Filed under: Cancer, Mind-body, Yoga
It’s National Women’s Health Week! Breast cancer affects MANY women. Medical doctors can guide your recovery, but learn how complementary-health techniques can help you feel empowered.

Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, and meditation could help you cope with different aspects and symptoms of breast cancer. Stress-management programs such as music therapy and mind-body techniques (for example, yoga and mindfulness meditation) could bring some relief too.

You could experience anxiety, depression, and/or stress during your recovery. Many patients and survivors also suffer from fatigue or sleep problems. Qigong (moving meditation), gentle yoga, and stress management techniques can help ease fatigue and improve sleep habits. And make sure you monitor your energy. Don’t try to take on too much.

If you’re receiving chemotherapy and experiencing nausea, other complementary-health approaches such as electroacupuncture and acupressure can help. A mind-body technique known as progressive muscle relaxation, which involves tensing and relaxing your muscles, could ease discomfort too.

HPRC offers additional resources on mind-body techniques and yoga. Adding these “weapons” to your arsenal might help you or someone you love in the battle against breast cancer. 

Acacia rigidula: another FDA target

Dietary supplement products containing Acadia rigidula are not allowed.

Another ingredient that has been showing up in dietary supplement products recently is Acadia rigidula. FDA recently declared that it is not acceptable in such products because it falls in the class known as a “new dietary ingredient.” A. rigidula is just the latest in a series of ingredients FDA has disallowed for this reason. Others include DMAA, DMBA, BMPEA, and aegeline. Visit the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ about Acacia rigidula to learn more, and explore the OPSS FAQs about ingredients to learn about others not permitted in dietary supplement products. especially BMPEA, which has been associated with A. rigidula.

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